Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 10, 2012 12:22 PM
Lipitor may be good for folks for helping lower blood cholesterol, but it is also extremely good at making money. Its manufacturer, Pfizer, raked in $12.9 billion annually at Lipitor’s peak, but those cash-cow days when Lipitor was the world's top-selling prescription drug are long gone. More generally known as Atorvastatin, it became a generic back at the end of November.
When a drug goes generic, drug companies generally give up on it right away and move on to the next thing that can potentially rake in the dough. But Pfizer didn’t want to do that. Lipitor had brought in so much, the company was hoping that it could find a way that it could continue to be a revenue stream, including its Lipitor for You patient program, even though Walmart jumped on the generic version as soon as it could do so. Now, don't bother asking your doctor if Lipitor is right for you.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Pfizer has finally given up on its marketing experiment after spending $87 million in the attempt to make it happen. While it did bring in $383 million in the first quarter, according to WSJ, Pfizer decided that the longer-term sales success of the "biggest hit in pharaceutical history" (as NPR called Lipitor) would be well nigh impossible to pull off. Now it's no longer working to sell Lipitor to health plans and not advertising the drug anywhere, the Journal notes.
It's not the first crisis in Pfizer's history of marketing the drug. Lipitor's $139 million campaign starring artificial heart pioneer Dr. Robert Jarvik was criticized by the FDA and pulled from circulation in 2008, while in 2010 Pfizer was compelled to recall the drug due to a "musty smell."